(The Center Square) — The Virginia General Assembly met Wednesday in Richmond and voted to finalize the overdue budget deal recently reached by the House and Senate finance committees – but not without a few impassioned speeches from the floor, many over the unique resolution lawmakers were asked to pass.
The assembly passes amendments to the state’s two-year budget every odd year, but this year, the House and Senate continued debating the budget past the July 1 deadline, the start of the fiscal year. Finally, the committees reached a deal, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin called a special session for legislators to codify it.
The session began in the House with a proposed resolution to treat the budget bill like a conference report – for members to give up their right to normal proceedings, in which they could debate or amend the bill and vote up or down.
This goes against precedent, but Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax County, seemed to speak for many when he voiced his ultimate support for the resolution despite its “unusual provisions.”
“As much as I’m a process person… and I don’t love that this could be seen as setting a precedent for the future – I hope it won’t,” Simon said, “I do support the resolution, and I hope we’ll all vote yes for it. Let’s get in, get out, and enjoy the great outcome this budget will be for hardworking Virginians across the commonwealth.”
The House quickly voted 83-5 in favor of the resolution. The resolution was then passed to the Senate to be voted on.
Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, spoke against the resolution, displeased with how it deviated from standard legislative procedure and fearing it would set a bad precedent for the future.
“Madame President, even though I expect that this procedural resolution will pass, I wanted to make sure that the members knew and understood that this is a sea change and a total difference from how this body has operated at any point in time, and I will be voting against this resolution,” McDougle said.
He was followed by Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, raising similar objections.
“Madame President and members of the Senate, I join my friend, the Sen. from Hanover, in his concern,” Stanley said, calling for a return to reaching a consensus on the budget within the allotted 60 days (45 days in odd years), allowing for “fresh and lively debate” and greater transparency with the public – and not setting a poor precedent for the many new members that will join the General Assembly in January.
“Is this now the accepted way that we do things? We just wait until session is over and a gentle few of the chosen go and decide … and then come out and say, ‘Here it is! And oh, by the way, you can’t amend it, you can’t participate for your constituents? You have to vote up or down?” Stanley questioned.
Sens. John Cosgrove and Thomas Norment defended the resolution, saying it didn’t have to set a precedent and that members could propose a resolution next session to change it.
Ultimately, the Senate voted 30-9 in favor of the resolution, and the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposed budget.